Lisa Marie Clark has contributed this posting to the Blog site for the JHU site for the course Social and Behavioral Foundations of Primary Health Care.

Cervical cancer is among the leading causes of death for Kenyan women. Every day, 9 women die from cervical cancer alone in Kenya. HPV vaccination reduces the risk dramatically, particularly for HPV types 16 and 18, which may be responsible for up to 70% of cervical cancers.

Optimal vaccination is in early adolescence starting at age 10, before sexual activity begins. In 2020, uptake of the HPV vaccine in Kenya was low, with only 33% of the target population receiving the first dose and only 16% percent receiving a second dose.  Low uptake may be due to a variety of factors including misinformation, lack of access, and low supply of vaccines.

In 2019, the Kenyan Ministry of Health began including the HPV vaccine in the routine vaccination schedule. The vaccine, with support from GAVI, the vaccine alliance, is offered free of charge. However, the Catholic Church and medical professional groups influenced by religious ideology have been a major opponent to vaccine uptake. The Kenya Catholic Doctors’ Association has been vocal about urging parents to promote abstinence over vaccination, equating HPV vaccination with permission to engage in sexual activities. See vaccination from Republic of Kenya’s Ministry of Health in photo.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is hD-33n0HRIC3nk5MFEAGMj8-5yoZOZB010xICtXA0I369kfz70j7dkNDxeUms3y96gGDjlHNZHdTrUA3B0Zb6HtrqvGIITz4WBlaXzXpWO-cwnw0I8rmmtOxZh_n3WqHwwmMO6Jw-d9Xf4YJdaVUCj0In the face of such obstacles to vaccine uptake, more funding is needed to strengthen Kenya’s vaccination campaign, with a focus on building trust and strengthening partnerships with faith leaders to improve vaccine uptake. With more funding from GAVI and improved community engagement vaccination rates would improve, HPV infection rates would decrease, and lives would be saved as a result.